Archives for March 2014

Going After Laughter, Post #21

Danya laughing

When is the last time you laughed, truly belly laughed? Do you take yourself too seriously?

I love to laugh and make others laugh. Laughter and smiles are universal. It makes me smile to hear other people or children laughing.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” –Proverbs 17:22

According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, a good laugh has great short-term effects like stimulating your heart, lungs, and muscles, increasing endorphins, soothing tension. Long-term effects from laughter may improve your immune system, relieve pain, improve your mood, lessen your depression and anxiety.

Clean, good-humored laughter truly is the best medicine. Just smiling makes you even more attractive.

Do you surround yourself with people or even one friend who lifts your spirits and laughter comes easily? If not, intentionally set times to spend time with someone or people with whom you can laugh.

Laughter is throughout the Bible. One of my favorite stories is when God told Abraham and his wife Sarah that they would have a baby when they were ages 100 years old and 90 years old, respectively. Needless to say, Sarah laughed—at God. She conceived and bore a son and named the baby “Isaac,” which means…. Laughter.

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’” –Genesis 21:6 NIV 1984

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.’” –Psalm 126:2-3 NIV 1984

May you be encouraged to smile and laugh more, and to make others laugh. It sure does lighten the room, lighten your heart, lighten your marriage, and those around you.

Relax, smile, get ready to laugh.

Here’s a clean joke for you:

Little Johnny was sitting in Sunday School one day when his teacher was teaching about Noah and the ark and all the animals.

She asked “With all that water from the Flood, do you think many fish were caught from Noah’s ark?”

Johnny quickly answered, “Of course not.”

“Why not, Johnny? It would be so easy to catch fish,” his teacher asked.

Johnny said matter-of-factly, “Noah only had two worms.”

Reflect:

–What will you do to laugh more?

Renew:

–“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” –Ecclesiastes 3:4 NIV 1984

Recharge:

–Name three positive people in your life who lift your spirits. Make an appointment to see them and spend time.

Resource:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

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We Are Perennials, Post #20

After Easter last year, I drove by the 300+-year-old church cemetery near my home and noticed a pile of about 20 or so Easter lilies, all sadly discarded, unloved, awaiting their trashly demise.

I wheeled in, pulled over, spread out my yoga mat in my trunk and placed every one of those plants in my trunk. You see, an Easter lily is a perennial. It will come back to life each year and bloom. So many people, so many churches, throw them away after Easter, thinking their purpose is done.  I hauled them all home,  gave some of them to neighbors who wanted to reuse/replant them. Mom and I planted the rest in my yard and some at the end of my street. It thrills my soul to now see them popping up from the ground, almost a year later. They are destined to bloom again.

Do you ever feel like a discarded Easter lily? I do. God looks at us as perennials. We may have our personal wilting, decaying periods, but He sees our potential. He knows when we are tended and nurtured, we will grow and bloom again and again.

Last year I learned yet another sweet lesson from my precious Mom, the horticulturist. She came over to my home to help plant some caladium bulbs, which we both love in our yards. She brought eight bags of bulbs, a total of 64 bulbs to plant. One by one, we dug a hole, scooped the soil in, planted the bulb, fertilized, and watered. We planted them all around my big oak tree in the front yard, then the rest along the front flower bed.

When we finished,  she did something I had not remembered her doing before. She offered to pray for them, for the newly planted caladium bulbs. As we both stood in the front yard, sweaty, knees covered with dirt from kneeling, she offered a prayer that I can still hear:

“Dear Lord, they’re in the ground now. Please help these bulbs grow well and thrive so that Danya and her neighbors can enjoy Your beauty. Thank You for creating even these bulbs that remind us of You. Thank you, Lord. We love You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

 I had a lump in my throat as we picked up our yard tools and cleaned ourselves off inside the garage. I had no doubt those bulbs would come up, their elephant-ear faces smiling toward heaven.  They grew and flourished,  every single one.

Have you ever prayed over seeds, bulbs you’ve planted? Do you, do we pray before any endeavor?

Similarly, how do we plant seeds/bulbs of encouragement? I encourage you to start today. It could be smiling at the grocery store cashier, looking her in the eye and asking how she’s doing. It could be to pull your neighbor’s emptied trash receptacle to the side of the house, so that he/she doesn’t have to do it when he comes home from work. It could be inviting your neighbor or coworker to church or Bible study.

We are blessed with endless possibilities of ways to plant seeds of encouragement in people around us. Remember, the Holy Spirit germinates those seeds in His timing.  Remember, each of us is a perennial.  

Reflect:

–Am I acting like an annual or a perennial?

–What (or whom) have you discarded, not realizing its potential?

–How can I plant seeds or bulbs of encouragement ?

Renew:

–“Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”  –1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NIV 1984

Recharge:

–Consider praying before every endeavor. Please comment.

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Springing Forward–>Divine Pruning, Post #19

Welcome to the 2014 first full week of Lent and Daylight Savings Time. Although it’s not officially springtime yet, the warm sunshine on my face this past weekend caused spring fever to rise within me.

All around my yard this weekend I noticed how much all my dead-looking plants and bushes need pruning back, so that they sprout back out and flourish.  It reminds me of what God is doing in me, in us, as we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter.

Divine pruning sure is a hard concept to grasp. I do liken it to the annual pruning back of the crepe myrtles, roses, and lantana in my yard. After the hardest freeze of the winter, all the dead growth is cut off, so the bushes or trees are almost level to the ground, ugly and barren. By waiting just a few months, they completely bud back out and blossom, many times even more beautiful and healthier than before.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…” (John 15:1-2 NIV 1984)

 So often we don’t understand why God divinely prunes us down to our raw, barren nakedness. These times are the toughest on us. Many of us normal people, and even some of the most Godly, inspiring people in my lives, have at one point or another been stripped of everything except our faith.  By trusting in God, He knows we will bud back out and blossom, even more beautifully and more healthy than before.

God also has to divinely prune us to bear more of His Fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit IS love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV 1984).

Notice the verb “is” instead of “are” after the word “Spirit.” That means that all nine fruit are one, not separate. We strive through the Holy Spirit for all nine. What a high calling, impossible to do on our own without Him.

I am my mother’s daughter. We share a deep love for flowers and plants. Growing up, our yard was always immaculately landscaped. Mom even planted a rose garden in our backyard, which expanded until we had more than 100 lovely roses, taking up more than half the yard.

So vividly I remember a wrought iron placard she had staked at the entrance trellis of the rose garden. It was a quote by Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932), English devotional writer and poet:

“The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, one is nearer God’s Heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.”

Mom’s rose garden was a small paradise, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

One of my chores growing up was to “deadhead” the roses after school. I didn’t realize what a gift it was to inhale the fragrance and witness the beauty, without getting pricked by thorns, as I carefully clipped the dead roses and left the blooming roses. By me pruning off the dead growth, I was allowing space and freedom for the rose to bloom again, bigger and better than even before. What a sweet analogy for our faith.

In each room in my home growing up was a daily bouquet of freshly cut roses. I didn’t realize that all houses didn’t have this blessing. One of Mom’s ministries was to take roses to our church’s members who were hospitalized or home-bound. I know people were blessed by this outreach.

Mom depended on my chore of  “deadheading” the roses for them to grow, bloom and bless others. I know I took this gift of fresh roses, this ministry for granted. Such valuable life lessons were taught in that garden.

May our souls continue to rise with spring fever as we divinely prune within.

Elisabeth Elliot, in her classic book Passion and Purity, so beautifully and poignantly writes,

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul…” p. 163.

Reflect:

–To what are you holding on too tightly?

–What or whom in your life is stunting your growth and needs divinely pruning?

Renew:

–“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43 NIV 1984)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”(John 15:16-17 NIV 1984)

Recharge:

—-What is your plan to divinely prune those people/items out of your life?

— How will you bear fruit this week?

Resource:

Elliot, Elisabeth.   1984. Passion and Purity.  Grand Rapids: Revell.

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